Being narcissistic and male appears to be an unhealthy
combination. American researchers published findings in the open access journal PLoS One
indicating that men with narcissistic character traits have
chronically higher cortisol levels correlated with cardiovascular
diseases and heart attacks.
Past research already showed that narcissism is more likely to
be found among men. Psychologist Sara Konrath (University of
Michigan) and her colleagues now conducted tests with undergraduate
students ranking their personality and measuring cortisol levels, a
hormone related to stress.
Narcissism consists of five different personality traits among
which are "unhealthy" ones like Exploitativeness and Entitlement
(correlated with anxiety and depression), and healthier ones like
Self-Absorption/Self-Admiration. Tests now showed that especially
male study participants with unhealthy narcissistic traits
exhibited significantly higher levels of cortisol.
Aggression as a defensive mechanism
Co-author David Reinhard commented that "even though narcissists
have grandiose self-perceptions, they also have fragile views of
themselves, and often resort to defensive strategies like
aggression when their sense of superiority is threatened."
"These kinds of coping strategies are linked with increased
cardiovascular reactivity to stress and higher blood pressure, so
it makes sense that higher levels of maladaptive narcissism would
contribute to highly reactive stress response systems and
chronically elevated levels of stress."
The question remains why women seem to be less affected by this
phenomenon. Konrath hypothesizes: "Given societal definitions of
masculinity that overlap with narcissism-for example, the belief
that men should be arrogant and dominant-men who endorse
stereotypically male sex roles and who are also high in narcissism
may feel especially stressed."